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Osceola, Arkansas
Clockwise from top: Mississippi County Courthouse copper dome is visible among mature trees as seen from the Hale Avenue Historic District, the courthouse grounds and main entrance, the Mississippi River at Sans Souci landing, Mississippi County Library, Osceola High School
Clockwise from top: Mississippi County Courthouse copper dome is visible among mature trees as seen from the Hale Avenue Historic District, the courthouse grounds and main entrance, the Mississippi River at Sans Souci landing, Mississippi County Library, Osceola High School
Location in Mississippi County and the state of Arkansas
Location in Mississippi County and the state of Arkansas
Country United States
State Arkansas
County Mississippi
 • Total 7.8 sq mi (20.2 km2)
 • Land 7.8 sq mi (20.2 km2)
 • Water 0 sq mi (0 km2)
Elevation 246 ft (75 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 7,757
 • Density 1,137.8/sq mi (439.4/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC−6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC−5)
ZIP code 72370
Area code 870
FIPS code 05-52580
GNIS feature ID 0077931
Website City Website

Osceola is a city in and one of the two county seats of Mississippi County, Arkansas, United States. Located along the Mississippi River within the Arkansas delta, the settlement was founded in 1837 and incorporated in 1853. Occupying an important location on the river, the city's economy grew as steamboat traffic increased. Timber and cotton harvesting would develop, and the city experienced rapid growth and development throughout the early 20th century. The city's economy has since diversified to include a robust industrial sector. The population was 7,757 at the 2010 census.



During the prehistoric period, Osceola and Mississippi County was largely swampland, with dense forest cover. The area was inhabited only by Native American tribes until the first settlers arrived around the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

Louisiana Purchase through Statehood

New Madrid Erdbeben
The Great Earthquake at New Madrid, a 19th-century woodcut from Devens' Our First Century (1877)

Initial white visitors to the area were speculators, hunters, and outlaws, but the remote region remained sparsely populated by settlers. An extremely intense New Madrid earthquake swarm, produced by the New Madrid Seismic Zone nearby in present-day Missouri, struck the area in 1811-1812. The results were widespread soil liquefaction and a change in geography that produced "sunken lands", which were sandy berms of silt and sediment disturbed by the earthquakes. Some tracts of land were sunk over 50 feet (15 m), disappeared underneath newly formed lakes (such as Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee), or transformed from green forests to stagnant swamps.

Following continuing speculation and settlement in the area in the years after the earthquakes, two settlers, William Bard Edrington and John Price Edrington negotiated the acquisition of Native American huts along the Mississippi River. By this point, the combination of abundant timber as an obvious economic asset and easy access to shippers and travelers along the river began driving growth in the region. In 1837, the settlement adopted the name Plum Point.

Antebellum period, Civil War and Reconstruction

The Plumb Point community had developed into a successful waypoint on the Mississippi as well as a hub for the timber required to power the steamboats now common on America's waterways. Enterprising settlers began to explore the uses for the fertile soils now ripe for row agriculture following clearing of the dense forests. It became apparent that the soil supported cotton extremely well, which was already a popular crop elsewhere in the South due to heavy European demand driven by the Industrial Revolution and resulting high market prices. Farmers from other cotton states began to relocate to Mississippi County and throughout the Arkansas Delta, bringing slaves, "King Cotton" culture and the plantation agriculture lifestyle with them. In 1853, the community had changed from mostly silviculture to agricultural, had a total of 250 residents, and officially incorporated as Osceola.

Naval Battle at Fort Pillow, Tennessee, 10 May 1862. Confederate ships are seen at right and Federal ironclads are seen in the center and left.
See also: Arkansas in the American Civil War

Osceola strongly supported secession in 1861, and raised a volunteer company called the Osceola Hornets to fight for the Confederacy. The unit was under command of Captain Charles Bowen within the 2nd Confederate Infantry. Osceola saw thousands of Union troops enter the area in 1862 in preparation to assault Fort Pillow and Memphis. On the river, the Battle of Plum Point Bend took place between the Confederate River Defense Fleet and the Union Mississippi River Squadron in 1862. Osceola itself was mostly subject to raids from both armies and guerrilla warfare that resulted in burning, pillaging and damage throughout the city.

Following the Civil War, race relations began to tighten between plantation owners who had lost the slave labor that fueled their successful plantations, poor whites who were suddenly in competition for work and social status with freedmen, and the former slaves who continued to face deprivation of their rights despite the war's outcome. Whitecapping by the Ku Klux Klan and other groups promoted a lawless atmosphere in Mississippi County. Violent encounters with racial tensions were common in Mississippi County and throughout the Arkansas Delta. An extreme example from Mississippi County was nicknamed the Black Hawk War. The racial violence and lawlessness continued to esclate, eventually resulting in Governor Powell Clayton declaring Mississippi County and thirteen other counties under martial law from November 1868 until March 1869.

The New South

Osceola, AR 018
Historic markers in downtown Osceola detailing performances by notable musicians

Osceola is the county seat of Mississippi County, and is also the seat of one of two judicial districts. Blytheville was named a secondary judicial district in 1901.

Anchoring the town square is the 1912 neoclassical Mississippi County Courthouse, which a copper roofed dome. The courthouse is bordered by the Hale Avenue Historic District and other structures on the National Historic Register of Historic Places. Visitors will also find the Mississippi County Historical Center located in a 1904 building that once housed a dry goods store.

Osceola is famous for its role in the development of blues music, and many famous blues musicians either came from Osceola or performed there. To celebrate this heritage, Main Street Osceola has been hosting the Osceola Heritage Festival since 1998.


Osceola is located at 35°42′8″N 89°58′33″W / 35.70222°N 89.97583°W / 35.70222; -89.97583 (35.702276, -89.975807). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 9.7 square miles (25 km2), all land.


Osceola, AR 005
Flat fields in cultivation, such as this one in western Osceola, are typical across the Arkansas Delta

The county is located in the Arkansas Delta, one of the six primary geographic regions of Arkansas. The Arkansas Delta is a subregion of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, which is a flat area consisting of rich, fertile sediment deposits from the Mississippi River between Louisiana and Illinois.


See also: New Madrid Seismic Zone

Osceola is within the New Madrid Seismic Zone, a major seismic zone and a prolific source of intraplate earthquakes. The area experienced the highest magnitude earthquake in North America east of the Rocky Mountains in the 1811–12 New Madrid earthquakes.


Sans Souci Landing 001
Mississippi River at Sans Souci Landing

The eastern edge of Osceola is the Mississippi River, which is also the state border between Arkansas and Tennessee. The river has provided opportunity for the Osceola since it was founded as a waypoint for river travelers in 1833. Steamboats allowed Osceola to continue to leverage its position on the river as a shipping port for timber and cotton from the surrounding fields.

Although critical to the growth and development of Osceola, the river has also been a source of adversity for the community. The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, the most destructive river flood in the history of the United States, and another flood in 1937 both damaged Osceola significantly, displacing hundreds of citizens and ruining crops.


Osceola has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa).

Climate data for Osceola, Arkansas
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 45
Average low °F (°C) 28
Precipitation inches (mm) 3.69


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 317
1890 458 44.5%
1900 953 108.1%
1910 1,769 85.6%
1920 1,755 −0.8%
1930 2,573 46.6%
1940 3,226 25.4%
1950 5,006 55.2%
1960 6,189 23.6%
1970 7,892 27.5%
1980 8,881 12.5%
1990 8,930 0.6%
2000 8,875 −0.6%
2010 7,757 −12.6%
Est. 2015 7,233 −6.8%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 7,757 people residing in the city. The racial makeup of the city was 53.9% Black, 41.9% White, 0.1% Native American, 0.2% Asian, 0.1% from some other race and 1.3% from two or more races. 2.5% were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

As of the census of 2000, there were 8,875 people, 3,183 households, and 2,314 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,135.9 people per square mile (438.8/km²). There were 3,551 housing units at an average density of 454.5 per square mile (175.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 47.39% White, 51.03% Black or African American, 0.10% Native American, 0.25% Asian, 0.41% from other races, and 0.82% from two or more races. 1.34% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 2,724 households out of which 38.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.3% were married couples living together, 25.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.3% were non-families. 24.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.70 and the average family size was 3.20.

In the city, the age distribution of the population shows 29.4% under the age of 18, 11.0% from 18 to 24, 26.4% from 25 to 44, 19.3% from 45 to 64, and 11.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females there were 90.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $23,163, and the median income for a family was $26,588. Males had a median income of $27,526 versus $18,788 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,327. About 26.0% of families and 31.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 41.0% of those under age 18 and 25.7% of those age 65 or over.

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